Like most women, Wifey doesn’t understand home repair.
Men know that every home project has three phases: the first phase, where you grossly overestimate what it is you are capable of doing, the second phase, where you spend vast amounts of money purchasing items which are directly or indirectly related to the task at hand, like getting a new cordless drill for a painting job on the logic that something might need to be re-hung, and the third phase, where you bleed and swear at the job in question until your wife is afraid to ask you to do any further work on it for fear of your health and/or sanity.
That’s home improvement, in a nutshell.
Women always think that home repair should be like This Old House, where people whisper expletive-free phrases, the fat guy with the beard never bleeds, and the antique table ends up in better shape than when you started.
I’ve got news for you: around my house, if a table needs some finishing work done on it, we call it kindling.
This weekend, though, we took on a fairly routine home task: we bought Ikea furniture. I like Ikea furniture, because it has directions with no words inside and the pressed wood smells like a Swedish forest. Fortunately, it doesn’t smell like the Swedes who assembled it, who often remind you of the hind end of a moose just after a meal of baked beans and chili.
The girl needed a new armoire. Since houses in Europe have the delightfully quant custom of being totally closet-free, we all have our hanging items in armoires, and the girl had outgrown hers. But it was nothing that Ikea couldn’t handle. We dutifully measured the space available: 105 centimeters.
Yes, I do everything in metric. If you don’t like that, go furlong yourself.
At Ikea, though, Wifey fell in love with an armoire that was 135 centimeters long. Being a good husband, what did I say?
“If you like it, get it. We’ll figure out how to make it fit.”
Now entering Phase 1. Since we were in Ikea, we also decided to get glass curio cabinets and a new baker’s rack to replace our current baker’s rack, which is in perfectly good condition but only weighs about fifteen pounds and can be easily folded down.
The new rack weighs eighty-four pounds and is slightly smaller than a Yugo. But it does smell of Swedish pines, which is a major upside.
Phase 2 was now accomplished.
We lugged all this out to the car, and Wifey did what she always does when it’s time to lift up something heavy: she batted her eyes at me and thrust out her chest and said “how can I help?”
With testosterone coursing through my veins and machismo now flooding my brain, I was not about to let Wifey help me fill the car up with cheap, imported pressed wood furniture, so I wrestled it into the car myself. In the process I herniated myself in several places, but I forgot to swear.
On the way home I made several jokes about stopping suddenly and having the boxes come hurtling forward to decapitate her. For some reason, she found this less than humorous.
Having learned my lesson, I kept my eyes north of the border and insisted that she help me lug the boxes upstairs. She tried me the time-honored woman’s trick of explaining that if we broke the boxes open we could carry everything upstairs easily in several trips.
Like I’m gonna fall for that. You know who makes the trips? Me, because she’ll end up unbuttoning the collar on her shirt or something and using cleavage to make me stupid. I insisted that we carry everything up, in boxes, because otherwise “we might scratch the wood.”
Yeah, right. Like that’d ever happen. Pressed wood’s indestructible, isn’t it?
After wrestling with them for the better part of half an hour, we got the boxes upstairs. We hadn’t sweat that much together since our wedding night, and only then because we discovered that the Chinese condoms I’d bought were expired.
Then we each took up our positions, ordained by the cosmos to be Wifey reading the directions, and me dutifully ignoring them to put it together “the way that seems right.”
We have put together most of our furniture this way, and in fact it works quite well. In all the time we’ve done this, we’ve never broken a piece.
What’s new, though, is that the children now “help” us. Mostly, they do this by running off with pieces and tools, or sticking dowel rods so far into their holes that they are lost forever.
And I’m strictly forbidden from swearing at the children, for reasons not entirely clear to me. Sometimes they deserve it, you know?
Two hours later, as something resembling an armoire began to take shape, I smashed my thumb with a hammer. I emitted a string of vile curses, because everybody knows that swearing at a smashed thumb makes you feel better.
“Are you bleeding?” asked Wifey.
“No, doesn’t count.” I said. Then I turned and, because I was preoccupied by the smashed thumb, I tore the top cross bar in half just by brushing it with my leg.
Stupid pressed wood. There goes our perfect record! Why don’t they just build the shitty thing out of balsa next time? At least then it’d be light.
Wifey gasped, the girl cried, and the boy just shook his head at me as if to say “I thought you were a man!”
I emitted another string of curses. “Get the tape,” I said.
“What? You’re going to tape it?”
“You have some other magical pixie dust way to stick the damn thing back together?” I asked.
Note to self: this is not conducive to intimacy.
When I’d finished taping it together, Wifey said “We’ll just stick a bow on it or something.”
“I’ll tell you where I’d like to stick it,” I muttered.
“What?” she asked me. “What did you say?”
“I love you sooooo much,” I responded.
Then we finally got it together. It only took us three hours and a minor squabble. Not bad, I say.
Next up: the all-glass curio case.
This was a bit trickier, if only because glass is often sharp, breaks easily, and is heavier than all get out. Midway through the job, I managed to slash myself and started bleeding. Not on the glass; it was actually on a Canada Dry can that I decided to crush with my bare hands before tossing it into the garbage.
Phase 3 was now complete.
As I was trying to get the darn thing together, Wifey was cautioning me all the while “don’t get blood on the glass! Don’t get blood on the glass!”
Finally it was ready to put into place, and the hang the door on it. “Just hold it there a second,” Wifey said. “I wanna clean it off before you put it in the corner.”
She left to go get the glass cleaner, the boy going along with her, and I took a moment to rest and revel in a job well done.
That, and I farted. Listen, at this point, it was one of the few bodily functions I still felt chippy enough to go through with. I could barely walk, I’d herniated everything, all my digits were throbbing from being hit with a hammer, and I’d cut myself on a drink can.
It’s amazing I was still upright.
Well, Wifey comes back, and she launches into this sniffing dry-heave, where she bobs her head, wrinkles up her nose, looks around the room, shakes it off, then starts it all over again. Every third one, she looks suspiciously at me.
“It smells like rancid moose toots in here,” Wifey said. “What happened?”
“Fine!” I finally admit. “I did it! I farted! I cut the cheese! That rancid smell is me! Me! There! Are you happy?”
“Daddy!” the boy said. “That’s awful! And in MY ROOM!”
“Good lord!” she said. “I thought there was a sewer leak or something.”
“Is this the thanks I get for putting together all this furniture all day?” I said.
“Well, you’re hardly finished with it, are you?”
Sigh. I should have bought that cordless belt sander.